Journal 36  Everyone’s War – Explosives

Authors who have generously donated articles for this Explosives issue of the journal include Gillian Mawson, an author and historian. A Patriotic Evacuee tells the story of Guernsey evacuee Winifred West who was interviewed by the Centre in 2006.
Steve Hunnisett of London’s Blitzwalkers, WWII guided London walks, has provided a condensed version of his research on four men from Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. Real Heroes of Football tells of their service in the RAF and the sacrifice they made for their country.
One of our long-term volunteers, Martin Cocker, has spent years studying and giving talks on war hero and Victoria Cross recipient Arthur Aaron. Seldom Equalled: Arthur Aaron is an account of Arthur’s service in the RAFVR and his ultimate act of bravery which went beyond the bounds of duty.
The Centre’s Mossie researchers, Ian, Chris and Emma, have compiled a piece on No. 264 Squadron which includes a rare image of Dutch agent Hilda Bergsma.

Core topics

We begin with an article transcribed from the Centre’s interview of bomb disposal expert Colonel Bertram Archer, OBE, the Bravest of the Brave. We would like to give thanks to Melanie Archer, daughter of Colonel Archer, for the photographs which she kindly supplied for this article.
Immediate post-war bomb disposal work is highlighted in an article drawn from material donated by Jim Wood relating to his father’s work in No. 2 Bomb Disposal Company, London. This is illustrated with some fantastic photography depicting Corporal ‘Timber’ Woods and his team of sappers at work.
Colin Lyall’s service in the 51st Highland Infantry Division is the subject of Always a Sapper. From clearing minefields during the Allied invasion of Sicily to ‘all the dirty jobs’ in Le Havre. Colin’s highly dangerous work resulted in fatalities to his platoon and he was severely wounded while defusing a mine on a remote road in the Ardennes. He later suffered from combat stress as a result. An endnote by Colin’s wife gives credit to her husband’s devotion to duty: ‘…he was always a sapper at heart’.
Continuing the explosive theme, the tragedy of the Fauld Explosion in Staffordshire, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, is documented through the donations of Ken and Joyce McLeod. Both witnessed the destruction of RAF Fauld, Britain’s largest munitions dump. Ken, who worked at Fauld, survived the explosion, despite being underground. Joyce tragically lost her fifteen-year-old brotherin the disaster.
Women in munitions is the focus of an article by Dr A. Clifford, technician/engineer in a Royal Ordnance Factory near York. His article gives a rare insight into the work undertaken by women in what was a highly dangerous occupation. Dr Clifford’s donation to the Centre is a valuable contribution tothe history of women’s war effort.


Sicily is very much a focus in this issue as 2018 is the 75th anniversary of Operation Husky, the invasion of the German held
island and staging point for the Italian Campaign. We experience the sea-borne landing assault through the detailed memoir of Colonel David Fenner, 6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. From his ‘last supper’ to the destruction he witnessed around the bridgehead across the Simeto River.
Operation Ladbroke, the opening air-borne invasion of Sicily, is told through the memories of a glider navigator and an American tug pilot, both of which are emotive accounts of the tragedy that befell the operation. Seventy-five gliders ditched in the sea with great loss of life, the cause of which is still in dispute today.
Continuing with events in 1943 we take a voyage with Lieutenant Charles Coles who was laying mines off the coast of Galita, Algeria, in February of that year. The sinking of his motor torpedo boat led to the loss of some of his crew and, ultimately, his capture. Charles’ article includes his experience of Marlag O POW Camp, his recall of the famous escape ruse of Albert RN, and his liberation from Lübeck POW Camp.